The 89th annual Scripps Spelling Bee is off to a buzzing start, and the competition has proven fierce. The competition kicked off with Tuesday's preliminary written test, and Wednesday gave the 285 contenders their first shot at onstage spelling. At the end of the day Wednesday, 171 contestants were deemed eligible to continue, but only 45 would advance to the next round. This year's youngest speller Akash Vukoti spelled his way to our hearts, even though he won't be advancing.
Vukoti is a 6-year-old from San Angelo, Texas, who aspires to be an "astro-actor" when he grows up. Some of his hobbies include jumping on trampolines and playing with his sister, and his favorite word is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. Vukoti is the youngest of the 285 contestants who started out in this year's Bee, and he was facing some tough competition — 39.6 percent of this year's competitors are age 13, and 44.2 percent are in the eighth grade. So Vukoti was up against some people with a bit more experience than him.
But even at the young age of 6, Vukoti already knows — and has accomplished — a lot. When he was just 3 years old, Vukoti became a member of the American Mensa, the high IQ society. This means that at age 3, his IQ was in the top 2 percent of the population. That's impressive. Vukoti started reading when he was just 2 years old, and speaks two languages of the Indian subcontinent, according to USA Today.
Unfortunately, Vukoti's time in the Bee came to an end after Wednesday's preliminary rounds. He was asked to spell "bacteriolytic," which means "the destruction of bacteria" and mixed up a letter in his spelling. But the crowd still cheered him on as he left. "I’m not trying to get past the spellers; I’m trying to get past the dictionary. The dictionary is what you compete with," he said, according to USA Today.
Vukoti remembers the first word he ever spelled — at 18 months — it was the word "spoon."
"My uncle gave me a spoon. I spelled it s-p-o-o-n. That's it. That's how it started," he told Vox.
And so the tale of the youngest 2016 Scripps speller began. Vukoti would compete in his first spelling bee soon after spelling his first "spoon," at 2 years old. He told Vox, "As I say the letters, the letters just come up."
The remaining spellers in this year's competition are competing for a $40,000 cash prize and an engraved Scripps trophy.